Craft cideries, perries and seasonal brews.
Subscriber Anne A. is enthusiastic about the growing popularity of hard cider. Hard cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermenting fruit, traditionally apples. It is said to be closer to wine than beer since it is based on fruit, not hops. Sparkling wine may be a closer relative, since hard cider has a subtle carbonation. Growing up, I picked apples with friends and made cider in a press, some of which eventually became ‘hard’. In this era of foodie experimentation, people are making hard cider from other fruits like pears, currents and strawberries – and blending fruits.
Cider lore suggests that all ‘cider’ was originally hard cider and it was the most popular drink in colonial America – before beer and wine arrived with immigrants. It has always been popular in English and Irish pubs. Hard cider is having a resurgence of popularity and Cook’s Illustrated says that sales in the U.S. are increasing 50% every year.
Just like wine, not all ciders are created equal. Sweet ciders are described as fruity, fresh and delicious. They usually have a lower alcohol content than dry ciders. Sweet ciders are generally preferred for cooking as they add an apple flavor without bitterness. Dry ciders tend to have a higher alcohol content and can be acidic and sometimes bitter. Tasting is only way to find your cider ‘sweet-spot’.
Cider vocabulary words of the day:
Perry – A perry is an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of pears, pear cider.
Cidery – Think ‘distillery’ for cider.
ABV – Alcohol By Volume describes the alcohol content of a drink.
Hopped ciders – Hard cider with hop flavors.
Hard Cider Alcohol Content
On average, most hard ciders are 4.5% – 7% alcohol by volume while some ciders have an ABV as high as 10 or 12%. Drier ciders usually have a higher ABV because the yeast consumes much of the cider’s natural sugars.
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider is sold nationally. It is described as “just like biting into a fresh apple”, “crisp,” “refreshing,” and “juicy,”. Cooked with roasted root vegetables, this cider added a “juicier” “clear apple flavor.” “Tastes like fall,” said one taster.
Angry Orchard has a Cider Bar in Walden, NY in the Hudson Valley, if you’d like to try it fresh from the barrel.
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider 6 pack, 12 oz bottles. $8.99
New, Angry Orchard Rosé, is made from French specialty apples which have red flesh. Experts suggest pairing it with creamy goat’s cheese.
If hard cider is new to you, this Angry Orchard app is helpful in paring food and cider. It is only available for iOS devices. You scan the label of a bottle of Angry Orchard cider and the app suggests food pairings and offers recipes. Now if only they would deliver apple cider friendly take-out!
Strongbow Gold Apple Hard Cider comes from England, where cider never went out of fashion. Serve over ice. $9.49 for six, 11.2-ounce bottles.
Stella Artois ‘Cidre’ is described and soft, sweet, crisp and effervescent. Find Stella Artois in stores.
Downeast Cider Original Blend, unfiltered (Boston, MA) 5.1% ABV
Anthem Cider Pear (Salem, Oregon) 6.2% ABV
Eve’Eve’s s Cidery Darling Creek , This is a sparkling cider with a higher ABV than others. (Van Etten, NY) 8% ABV. $18 for a 750ml bottle.
Wandering Aengus Oaked Dry Cider (Salem, Oregon) 7.5% ABV.
Guide to Local Cider Makers around the U.S.
Some of the best cider is local. Look in your area for small, local, craft cidermakers. They are all over the country, especially in ‘apple country’ like Washington State and Oregon, Vermont, New York and Virginia.
Special fall Ciders
Harpoon Brewery Pumpkin Cider (Boston, MA) 4.8% ABV
Real pumpkin and freshly pressed apples are combined with seasonal spices to craft this pure and natural craft cider.
Seattle Cider Pumpkin Spice Hard Cider (Seattle, WA) 6.9% ABV
Made from Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala apples, this semi-sweet cider is copper in color and perfect for fall. Fermented with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, it offers hints of the season’s favorite spices followed by just a touch of pumpkin.
Woodchuck Fall Harvest Hard Cider (Middlebury, VT) 5% ABV
This cider has a complex and elegant character full of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg, balanced with a hint of American white oak. It is described as “Just like apple pie”.
Bright apple fruit with elegant sweetness and subtle delights of the pear. A tree-ripened, delicate and refreshing taste of the orchard. Pair it with pungent cheese, salmon, poultry, pork and pie.
Wyndridge Farm Avant Grove Cider (York, PA) 5.5% ABVHoneycrisp and Bittersweet off-dry hard cider from Adams County fruit. Crafty Cider a more sophisticated beverage – crafted in the spirit of a traditional Champagne-style hard cider. Crafty Cider leaves out excessive amounts of candy-like sweeteners that some other ciders add. We believe in keeping it simple, by using locally pressed apples and yeast. The result is a fresh, clean tasting hard cider. ABV 6%
DIY – Make your own cider this fall when apples are plentiful. You can customize your brew. The fermentation process takes just a few weeks.
The Joy of Cider: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Drinking and Making Hard Cider (Joy of Series). Includes 50 cider recipes. Paperback, August 6, 2019. $16.99
Modern Cider: Simple Recipes to Make Your Own Ciders, Perries, Cysers, Shrubs, Fruit Wines, Vinegars, and More Hardcover – August 22, 2017. $15.63
Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own (Third Edition) Paperback – September 2, 2013. by Ben Watson $13.12
Brooklyn Brew Shop Hard Cider Making Kit: Starter Set with Reusable Glass Fermenter, Equipment, Ingredients – Perfect for Making Craft Hard Cider at Home. Makes 3 batches of hard cider with easy-to-follow videos and instructions. Kit includes: 1-gallon reusable glass fermenter, 3 packets yeast, vinyl tubing & clamp, racking cane & tip, chambered airlock, 3 packets cleanser, and screw-cap stopper. It just needs apple cider/juice. $39.99
Thinking beyond your usual beverage? See this ASE article on Shrubs. ‘Shrub’ is a general term for a sophisticated drink syrup made of some combination of fruit, sugar, berries, aromatics and vinegar. Shrubs are sometimes called, ‘drinking’ vinegars.
Header image from Brent Hofacker